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Posted October 21, 2020 | 5:02 PM

Hillsborough County, Tampa General Hospital Plan $8.2 Million Center for COVID-19 Patients

Pandemic spurs need for treatment facility

Hillsborough County will use money available through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to cover half of the $8.2 million estimated cost of renovating and equipping a building at Tampa General Hospital to treat COVID-19 patients.

When fully operational, the new COVID-19 Unit will have 59 ICU beds and up to 45 "surge readiness" beds that will be used for the care and treatment of people with the coronavirus, many of whom presumably could be Hillsborough County residents. TGH also has agreed to provide up to 500 COVID-19 tests weekly for Hillsborough County employees and to buy two special units to facilitate mobile testing. Tampa General will make unoccupied beds in the COVID-19 unit available during any declared state of emergency, such as a hurricane, for people needing alternate shelter due to COVID-19 exposure or diagnosis.

The County's obligation is an amount up to $4.5 million.

Hillsborough County's Board of County Commissioners approved the three-year, matching funds agreement on Oct. 21. It takes effect immediately.

The arrangement received an endorsement from Dr. Douglas Holt, Director of the Florida Department of Health's operations in Hillsborough County. In a letter to Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise, Holt calls the future Center for Infectious Diseases "an extremely valuable public health asset."

Dr. Charles Lockwood, Dean of USF's Morsani College of Medicine, and Dr. Kami Kim, Director of Morsani's Division of Infectious Diseases, and International Medicine, cosigned a letter supporting the deal. Tampa General is one of the primary teaching hospitals for the Morsani College of Medicine.

Drs. Lockwood and Kim, in their letter to the Board of County Commissioners, say that six months into the pandemic, "it is clear COVID-19 will affect our community for years to come."

"The mission of the TGH Center for Infectious Diseases aligns with the County Board mission to serve and protect Hillsborough County," Drs. Lockwood and Kim wrote.

As of Oct. 21, there were 45,798 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hillsborough County and 759 confirmed deaths.

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